May 8th, 2012

MAP IT

Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

By Catherine Higgins and Daniel Kuhn

A small map is a big deal for commercial truckers who drive through Utah.

The New UDOT Truck Parking Map is a schematic showing the location of commercial truck stops and UDOT rest areas along I-15 as well as the other Interstate Highways in Utah. UDOT is not aware of any other state producing a similar map.

The schematic shows the number and location of parking spaces in Utah for commercial truckers. That information is important for two reasons:

First, Utah is strategically significant to North America’s commercial trucking industry, and it is easy to see why by just looking at a highway map of the United States. I-80 is the backbone of routes crossing the middle section of the nation, on which freight moves to, from, and through Utah en route to points all across the USA and Canada. Northern Utah is the junction of two of I-80’s most important feeder routes – I-84 from the Pacific Northwest, and I-15 from Las Vegas and southern California.

The UDOT Truck Parking schematic shows the location of truck stop and rest stop parking.

A large percentage of the trucks traveling through Utah, particularly in the summer and fall, are refrigerated “reefer” trucks carrying perishable, time and temperature-sensitive foodstuffs. A large portion of what America eats passes through Utah in reefer trucks every day. On I-80 east of the junction with I-84 in Echo, Utah, reefer trucks amount to more than 50% of total truck traffic, which averages about 5000 truck per day during the western growing season.

Because of Utah’s crossroads status, UDOT’s highways handle a disproportionately high amount of freight for the entire country as well as Canada. This result in a correspondingly high number of distribution warehouses being located in the Beehive State. Several refrigerated truck companies are headquartered along the Wasatch Front, including the world’s largest, C.R. England, Inc.

Utah’s crossroads status for highway freight is further reinforced by our having the highest percentage of truck traffic of all 50 United States. According to the latest federal highway data, 23% of total traffic on Utah highways is trucks, compared to a national average of only 12%. While Utah roads are used to move a myriad of products from all over the continent, only 10 to 12% of the freight moving on Utah highways is actually consumed here in Utah.

The second factor that makes the new Utah Truck Parking Map a useful tool has to do with federal rules that govern rest breaks for truck drivers. Hours of Service laws are meant to keep our highway system safe by preventing crashes caused by driver fatigue. Drivers of commercial motor vehicles such as trucks and buses are required to take mandatory rest and sleep breaks. However, there is currently a shortage of long-term parking for trucks across much of the nation, making it difficult for drivers to find places to park to get their required rest.

The UDOT Truck Parking Map provides truck drivers a compact source of information about the location of long-term truck parking, as well as what amenities are found at each truck stop or rest area. This allows drivers to better plan their rest stops and reduces the number of drivers who “park on off ramps or on the side of major freight highways,” explains Vern Keeslar, Senior Planner with InterPlan. Daniel Kuhn, UDOT’s Railroad & Freight Planner, and Keeslar worked together to develop this useful tool for commercial truckers.

Funded by a federal grant, this effort included interviews with more than 400 truck drivers, as well as the managers of commercial truck stops along the I-15 corridor.When truckers were asked what tool would be most helpful, a durable map or parking locations was number one on their list. The Utah Truck Parking Map was the result, which is printed on waterproof, tear-resistant paper, and allows drivers to avoid using electronic communication technology while driving which can create distractions, safety hazards, and is forbidden by law in many states.

The Utah Truck Parking Map is being placed at commercial truck stops, UDOT Ports of Entry, selected distribution warehouses, and 2000 copies will be distributed by the Utah Trucking Association through their in-house magazine.

Keeping freight moving safely and efficiently on Utah highways is a key element in supporting and maintaining robust economic activity here in Utah, at the Crossroads of the West.

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